Researchers at North Carolina State University have created tiny plastic microneedles using which they were able to deliver quantum dots under the skin. Quantum dots are being looked into by scientists for their light affecting properties as potential tools in cancer diagnosis. The new advance may help design quantum dot technology in the fight against skin cancers.
The researchers created the plastic microneedles and tested them using pig skin, which has characteristics closely resembling human skin. Using a water-based solution containing quantum dots, the researchers were able to capture images of the quantum dots entering the skin using multiphoton microscopy. These images show the mechanism by which the quantum dots enter the layers of skin, allowing the researchers to verify the effectiveness of the microneedles as a delivery mechanism for quantum dots.
The imaging method used in this study, multiphoton microscopy, may have clinical applications for real-time imaging of dyes – such as quantum dots – in the skin. This could contribute to more rapid diagnosis of cancers or other medical problems.
The study is also significant because it shows that a laser-based rapid prototyping approach allows for the creation of microneedles of varying lengths and shapes. This will allow physicians to create microneedles that are customized for treatment of a specific condition.
Specifically, the microneedles were created using two-photon polymerization, an approach pioneered by NC State and Laser Zentrum Hannover for use in medical device applications. Two-photon polymerization allowed the researchers to create hollow, plastic microneedles with specific design characteristics.